District 202 Board of Education discusses equity of AP enrollment, access


Daily file photo by Onyekaorise Chigbogwu

Evanston Township High School. The District 202 Board of Education discussed disparities in Advanced Placement enrollment Tuesday.

Divya Bhardwaj and Sonya Dymova

The Evanston Township High School District 202 Board of Education spoke Tuesday about addressing disproportionate enrollment across racial demographic groups in Advanced Placement classes.

D202 Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Pete Bavis, along with ETHS teachers, presented statistics on the number and demographics of juniors and seniors taking Advanced Placement classes. 

In response to the presentation, D202 Board member Mirah Anti noted wide gaps between the percentage of white students and the percentage of Black and Latine students enrolled.

“I went back and did the math. We are talking about at least 77% of the white student body taking an AP class,” Anti said. “For Black students, we have 20 to 22%, and 38% (for) Latino … That’s pretty horrible.” 

At least as far back as the 2017-2018 school year, the district has recorded significant inequity in AP classes, with large gaps between the performance of white students compared to that of Black and Latine students.

ETHS is attempting to address this disparity through initiatives like teamASAP, a group aiming to make AP classes more accessible to underrepresented groups. The initiative focuses on giving its participants tools to deal with microaggressions they might face in the classroom. The organization also aims to work with teachers to ensure these incidents become less frequent.

teamASAP’s monthly lunches consistently record high attendance of more than 100 students. At these events, students discuss their experiences with AP curricula, focusing on “race and equity in the AP classroom,” according to teacher and teamASAP member Tina Lulla. 

Bavis also said he hopes the AP enrollment will increase as more AP courses with an identity-based approach become available. This year, for example, ETHS began teaching AP African American Studies — a course introduced to ETHS on a pilot basis along with 59 other schools nationwide. 

“Next year, it will be a full-fledged course with an AP exam,” Bavis said. “That’s a great course that we’re excited about.” 

ETHS also offers other classes specifically intended for Black students, including an AP Calculus AB class reserved for students who identify as Black.

Board members also discussed AP enrollment over time. The 2020-2021 academic year, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, saw a drop, but last year 1,003 students enrolled — marking the highest enrollment in at least four years. 

The number of students who passed their AP tests similarly rebounded past pre-pandemic numbers, with 733 passing in the 2021-2022 school year.

However, Board member Gretchen Livingston emphasized the numbers have not changed greatly from the 2006-2007 school year — which Bavis said was before the district began to work on increasing access and success in AP classes.

I’m gonna be just optimistic, and say I think it is the beginning of a better trend,” she said. “The challenge is, as it has been up until the pandemic anyway, we made these big changes, big steps (through teamASAP), but now we are really kind of stalled out, and we need to do something more.”

While appreciative of these efforts, Board member Patricia Maunsell emphasized more work remains to be done. 

“We’ve got to kind of level up,” she said. “Level a little higher, a little faster, a little bolder.”

Email: [email protected] 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @sonyawanders

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